Friday 12 September 2003
Ray Harford Obituary
Ray Harford, who died from cancer at the age of 58 on Saturday, was the Dons' manager for eighteen months from 1990-1991. Under his tenure the team took the first steps to shake off their long-ball tag and he brought Gary Elkins, Andy Clarke and Robbie Earle to the club.
Appointed initially temporarily following Bobby Gould's decision to quit in summer 1990, Harford oversaw the last season at Plough Lane. Adapting to the new style, the team rallied to finish seventh. The season's highlights included a 5-1 thrashing of Tottenham at Plough Lane and a 4-0 thumping of Norwich at Carrow Road.
Harford served notice of his intention to quit at the start of 1991-92 season, the first at Selhurst, and eventually left after a 3-1 win over Norwich City on October 5th, with the club once again seventh in the table. He said on leaving: "I think I am leaving a better manager than when I arrived. With Luton I was a good coach and had a solid reputation but at Wimbledon I had to branch out. I learnt to develop my man-management skills ? there were so many strong characters at Wimbledon that you had to be part psychologist as well as manager to get the best out of people and gain their respect."
He was very much liked and respected by all at the club, and in the football world in general. He went on to play an instrumental part in Blackburn's Premiership triumph in 1995 as Kenny Dalglish's assistant. Prior to joining the Dons, he was Luton's most successful manager ever, taking them to ninth in Division One, beating Arsenal in the final of the League Cup in 1988 and losing to Wimbledon in an FA Cup semi-final in the same year. As a player he featured as a centre-half for Charlton, Exeter, Lincoln, Mansfield, Port Vale and Colchester United, He was working as a coach at Millwall when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Roger Joseph, who was ever-present under Harford, making 57 appearances at left-back, said: "He was genuinely the best manager I ever played under ? and I've played under a few! He was a great man-to-man manager."
A minute's silence was observed in Ray Harford's memory before the friendly against Sutton at Gander Green Lane. His son Paul went on to play for Sutton and the Harfords were popular visitors to the club. All of us at AFC Wimbledon send our sincere condolences to his family.